Paul de Kock
PAUL AND HIS DOG
THE JEFFERSON PRESS
BOSTON NEW YORK
Copyrighted, 1903-1904, by G. B. & Sons.
PAUL AND HIS DOG
I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX, XXI, XXII, XXIII, XXIV, XXV
A MASQUERADE AT THE OPÉRA
What a crowd! how eager all these people are to make their way into the ball-room! they begin to push and elbow one another even in the street, in front of the entrance to the theatre; the carriages move too slowly to suit the persons inside or the police officers whose duty it is to keep all vehicles in motion.
See those maskers; those dominos have hardly time to alight from their coupé, for the coachman must move on instantly to make room for the confrère behind him; many persons even alight before they are in front of the theatre, hoping to reach their destination more quickly.
It is evident therefore that they must be afraid of not finding room, of not being able to crowd their way into that sanctuary of pleasure, of folly, rather; and yet one can always get in, at any hour. Though the hall be overflowing with people, though the foyer be full to suffocation, though it be impossible to move in the corridor,—it makes no difference: one can always find a way to slip into the vast throng.
People push you, bump against you, tread on your feet, force you to go to the right when you want to go to the left. You do not find the person you are seeking, you are separated from your companion; if you have arranged yourself with great care and elegance, in a few minutes your clothes are rumpled, torn, stained.—But what does it matter! you are at the Opéra masquerade.
You are speedily bewildered by the noise made by the multitude that surrounds you; the heat becomes stifling; add to this the odor of the bouquets and of the perfumery used by the ladies, and lastly the strains of the enormous orchestra playing galops, waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, with a swing, a precision, a vigor which makes your legs twitch; and do not be surprised if you begin to feel like a different man, if your brain whirls, if your heart beats more rapidly, if you suddenly become inclined to play pranks, to enjoy yourself—no matter how.
But you do not intend to have come to the Opéra ball for nothing. You aspire to an intrigue, a conquest, an unexpected meeting. You seek pleasure, no matter under what form it presents itself, and you often pass several hours in the quest, or rather, in quest of the unknown.
Ah! it is so provoking when a domino with a graceful figure, a tiny hand and a well-arched foot takes your arm, saying:
"I know you!"
I know you! those three words, uttered by an unfamiliar voice, but by a woman who takes your arm, clings to it familiarly, leans toward you and looks into your eyes in a very alluring way—those three words disturb you, excite you, toss you at once into the field of conjecture. No matter how many times you may hear them during the night, they always produce their effect, and especially, as I said just now, if the masker who says them to you has a pretty figure, a pretty hand, pretty eyes—all of which make one desire or hope for a charming face.
First of all, you try to identify the person who speaks to you; you examine her eyes, the lower part of her chin, which the mask imperfectly conceals; you pass in review the feet, the arms, the figure, the hair. You listen attentively to the tone of the voice, which is never perfectly disguised to a very sharp ear.
But when all these have failed to give you any